This is an 808 Keychain camera. My wife bought me one from eBay a few months ago and if you ask me it’s an incredible thing. A 720p HD video camera, on a keyring for around a tenner. Mine has a 4 gigabyte Micro SD card in it too.
I think these little cameras are a hint of something very big. Reading about them online reveals that there’s a number of different versions – and no guarantee they’ll work when you get them. They’re that badly made. It seems that if you press both buttons at the same time it can fry the memory card!
Predictably, people have already pulled these things apart in order to hack them into various projects and there’s been reports that some people have found embedded mobile phone graphics on some of the chips inside. These are clearly black market frankenproducts – made from a combination of surplus mobile phone components and car alarm key rings. I wonder how much they actually cost to manufacture. I wonder if the bits are stolen.
I’m guessing these little cameras are a byproduct of Chinese shanzai manufacturing.
Shanzai is the name used for a huge black market industry that (currently) specialises in making fake mobile phones in small factories. Basements. We’re not talking about a few phones either. The volume is terrifying. According to CCID Consulting in 2007 an estimated 150 million phones – 20% of the 750 million devices produced in China – were counterfeit or off brand.
Initially carbon copies of the genuine article, more recent shanzai phones sometimes add eccentric new features to meet the demands of the market and can produce them far quicker than the genuine manufacturers can adapt (apparently 28-30 days to market). It’s probably because they have access to the components, tools, skilled factory workers and they’re not held back by corporate bureaucracy, legal issues, manufacturing schedules and overheads – or safety. For example shanzai Nokia phones had dual SIM slots before the genuine ones did – something I think Jan Chipchase (Ex Nokia) pointed out in a recent interview and my colleagues Terry and Siddhi explained in their recent “China going Global” talk at LBi. Nokia saw them, realised there was a market for dual SIM phones and promptly set to work producing their own versions of the fake versions of their own products. There’s already shanzai iPhones that to some people are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
It seems that this little camera hints at something spinning off from all this counterfeit innovation – entirely new products made from surplus mobile phone components. It’s pretty much DIY hardware hacking but with the capacity for large scale production! Just wait till the people that make these things work out what you can do with 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the other components being put into newer smartphones. This could be the way we get to see the little ubicomp Kinder Egg type toys that Russell Davies wrote about in this month’s Wired.
Up until recently software has been the weak point for shanzai but we’re now beginning to see devices running on Google’s Android operating system. Open source software has brought power and compatibility to shanzai. I’m really interested to hear what might happen next shanzai manufacturing capability meets open source hardware.